Apple is hosting its ‘Spring Forward’ media event in San Francisco today at 10am local time (5pm GMT), where the company’s CEO Tim Cook is expected to reveal more details about the Apple Watch – including price, battery life, launch date and apps.
The Apple Watch represents Android Wear’s first real competitor – Samsung’s Tizen timepiece and the original Pebble don’t really count – so let’s see how they compare in terms of design, fitness, ease of use and price.
Do you agree or disagree with our assessment? Let us know in the comments below!
Design and comfort
There is one thing Apple can’t be faulted for and that is a sense of style, and the Apple Watch is no different. Not only is it available in two different sizes (38mm and 42mm), it comes in a range of alloys from stainless steel to 18-carat gold, and you can also choose from a variety of straps to make it your own.
There is no denying the all-plastic prototypes for Android Wear, such as the LG G Watch, were very basic and couldn’t compare with the Apple Watch’s premium finish. However, the Moto 360, Asus Zenwatch, LG G Watch Urbane and newly announced Huawei Watch with their mix of stainless steel, gold coating and leather straps prove have raised Android Wear’s standard.
Motorola is also extending its MotoMaker program to the Moto 360, which will allow customers to personalize their watches with different colors, band options and watch faces before they buy. An exact launch date hasn’t been confirmed, but the Moto 360 will be available through MotoMaker in the US, UK, France, Germany and Mexico.
In terms of the user interface, Apple made a point of showing off how the Apple Watch could be further customized with third-party watch faces at its keynote last September. Google also added third-party watch face support to Android Wear a month later and the Play store is now packed with a wide selection.
Tying in with the launch of Apple’s Health for iOS 8, the Apple Watch is also promoted as a fitness tracker. While this includes the launch of a dedicated Apple Watch Sport model with a rubber strap, every version of Apple Watch will have an accelerometer to monitor steps, heart rate sensor, and GPS to give a more accurate measure of distance and speed when walking, running and cycling. When using the watch, the Acitvity app will give you an overview of how long you’ve spent sitting down, walking and exercising, while a dedicated Workout app will offer more detailed data – such as calories, pace and speed – for when you hit the gym.
Android Wear has supported fitness tracking from the beginning, with pedometers available across the board and a select few offering heart rate monitors. The Samsung Gear Live is also water and dusts resistant, so that it can better suit the rough and tumble of outdoor exercise. However, the big advantage the Apple Watch had over Wear to begin with, was GPS support.
Early models lacked this feature, so joggers would have to carry their cumbersome smartphone around with them as well as wear their smartwatch. An Android Wear update and the launch of the Sony Smartwatch 3 has corrected this oversight, but GPS sensors remain a rarity in Android Wear, with only the LG Watch Urbane also offering the feature.
Android’s own health platform also leaves a lot to be desired. It uses the sensors built into your device to automatically track activities like walking, biking and running. You can also use it to keep track of your fitness goals and weight-loss progress over the past day, week and month. This is comparable to the Apple Watch’s Activity app, but perhaps not its sports-focused Workout app. Initially limited to just Android Wear, Google Fit is now available for all smartphones running 4.0 and on the Web. Samsung and Motorola also offer their own properitary fitness trackers, which offer additional features.
Ease of use
Both Android Wear and the Apple Watch recognise that smartwatches have limited functionality due to their smaller screen size, so offer steeamlined services compared to your smartpone, mostly providing notifications for apps, emails and messages.
On Android Wear, you can also give Google Now voice commands to search the Web, set reminders and send messages very easily, if you don’t want to look like you’re talking to yourself in a public place, it gets more complicated. Lots of tapping at the screen and scrolling through lists of options is required, it is neither quick nor easy. Google have tried to fix this by adding Quick Settings, which allow you to mute notifications and adjust brightness with a tap, but this feels a bit like putting a plaster on a deeper problem.
In contrast, the Apple’s Watch allows users to fully customise the honeycomb layout to priortise the apps that they want easy access to on their wrist. The dial on the side of the Apple Watch can load up Siri for voice commands, much them as Android Wear, but turning the dial will also zoom the screen in and out, which may give users greater control. However, until the Apple Watch formally launches and is tested by a wider userbase than tech-savvy journalists and developers, it is hard to make a judgment call.
The price is right
One of the biggest advantages that Android as over Apple is the pricing. With most new Wear smartwatches now retailing around the £189 mark, and secondhand units selling closer to £139, Apple’s much higher price point will certainly be a big factor for the more casual consumer. However, as with every Apple product, there’s also a dedicated userbase who will undoubtedly pay extra to have the premium finish that Apple can offer. Still even the biggest Apple fanboy will have to think twice before buying the gold variants that are expected to cost more than a £1,000.
For more information on the Apple Watch, follow @iCreateMagazine’s live blog on Twitter from 5pm GMT today.